“So pretty,” I breathe, watching as the colors slowly change.
I feel his breath on my ear, then his arm snakes around my waist, his fingers fanning over my side. “Not half as beautiful as you.”
A grin stretches over my face, and I turn to look at him. “Morning.”
The corner of his mouth lifts. “Morning, little one.”
“Until we’re training,” I mutter. “Then I’m little girl again.”
“Only if you piss me off.” He stands up and holds his hand out to me. “Come, it’s time to make you hate me again.”
I scrunch my nose as I let him pull me to my feet. Chance wraps his arm around my shoulders, then we walk back toward the ward.
As we approach the nest, it’s quiet. I can’t hear Ruth and hope she’s been taken down.
When we enter the tunnel, Idris steps out from behind the first archway, his arms crossed over his chest. “What do we have here?”
I stop dead in my tracks, all the blood draining from my face. Chance continues walking until he’s standing in front of Idris.
“Did you need something?” His voice is calm, almost void of emotion.
“Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find either of you.” Idris raises his one eyebrow in mock surprise. “Do you want the newbie?”
“I’m happy with the team I have.”
“You sure?” Idris uncrosses his arms and starts to walk toward me.
My heart beats with every step he takes.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take the other one and rather let me have this one?” He looks right at me as he asks the question. “This one has more guts. I’m going to break the other one within minutes.”
It’s a test to see if I care enough to swap places with Ruth.
“I said I’m happy with my team,” Chance snaps.
“Do you want to save your friend?” Idris asks me.
When I look at Chance, his eyes are hard on me. He shakes his head lightly.
He knows what I’m thinking. I can save Ruth if I trade places with her. Idris will kill her.
Chance’s face hardens, then he shouts at me. “The drill room. Now!” I stare at him for a moment. “Are you deaf?” he hisses at me. “Move it, Jasper, or I swear to God I’ll make you regret the day you were born.”
I dart forward and run.
How the hell am I in trouble for caring about Ruth? This is insane.
When I reach the drill room, with Chance right behind me, I walk to the open space and stand bare feet in the middle of the arena while Chance presses the buttons.
I can hardly hear the room roar to life above the thundering of my heart.
I manage to stand my ground when he stalks toward me, then he grabs me by my shoulders and shakes me hard.
“What the hell was that?” he shouts, looking like he’s a second away from killing me. Shoving me backward, he steps away, sucking in deep breaths of air in an attempt to control his anger. “You have a fucking death wish.”
I stand still, my eyes wide and my breaths fast. He’s never been this angry before.
“I’ve really, and I mean really, put myself out there for you.” He shoves both his hands through his hair.”
“Don’t you fucking dare say you’re sorry!” he snaps. “You don’t get to fix this with a couple of words.” I cringe back. “You wanted to go to Idris?”
I shake my head. “No. I’m just worried about Ruth.”
“She doesn’t fucking matter!” Chance roars.
He walks to the cabinet, and opening it, he takes out a gun. I start shaking my head when he loads it with a clip. Coming back to me, he grabs hold of my hand and shoves the weapon into my palm.
The metal is cold against my skin.
Grabbing a bag of balls, he drags them closer and drops them at my feet.
Tears blur my vision, and I can’t look at him, my fingers trembling around the handle of the gun.
“I’m going to run the course, and I’ll keep fucking running until you either shoot that target three times.” He points to a paper man stuck to the wall beneath the scaffolds. “Or you have to hit me with a ball three times.”
“I … I don’t know how to shoot a gun,” I stammer over the words as the first tear rolls down my cheek.
The gun is heavy, and I struggle to keep hold of it.
He glares at the gun in my hand, then back at me. “You aim and pull the fucking trigger.” He starts to jog toward the pathway, then yells, “You can always just throw the balls.”
I hear his shoes slapping against the concrete and move away from the bag of balls. There’s no way I’m hurting Chance.
“It’s going to be a long day if you don’t get going,” he shouts.
A loud bang sounds through the dome as he lands on the first scaffold.